When Brigid and I first moved into our condo in suburban Maryland, the only gym in any proximity was a Bally’s in a nearby strip mall. It was outdated, overcrowded, and just unpleasant but hey, a guy’s got to get his pump on. The worst part, though, was the ability of personal trainers and their charges to take up way too much space at any one time. Worth noting here is that Brigid availed herself of said personal training services, so she might have a different perspective from inside the snow globe. But for the rest of us do-it-yourselfers, seeing a trainer and a gym goer heading toward the very next thing you were going to do meant aggravation, delays, and a general sense that you were a steerage passenger on the S.S. Bally’s.
Until very recently, this experience had been my only frame of reference for personal trainers, so I’ve always had a less than positive impression. That is, until I realized exactly why personal trainers matter so damn much, especially for the Resolutionists among us. I had my a-ha moment a week ago, when I was getting in a workout on a Friday midday – not my usual time, but I had my evening booked. I noticed two young women working out together, but they kept coming back toward the stretching area every couple of minutes for some reason. Curious, I looked over to figure out the reason why they were doing laps of the gym floor, and there it was: An exercise and diet book, opened to whatever workout du jour the pair was doing.
Now that I had the why down, I was curious to see the product in action. I watched them do one particular exercise, and immediately the revelation hit me. Their form was terrible. Beyond awful. Possibly even deleterious to their well-being. But they trudged along, not realizing or caring that simply going through any motion wasn’t going to have the benefits that good form presents.
And this is where a personal trainer comes in. Again, I’m merely an observer, but as someone who looks on from the outside, I’ve noticed a couple of areas where trainers can be a big benefit for anyone, regardless of experience level:
- Form. Back to our woebegone duo for one more moment on the topic of form. I know had a trainer been watching, after they wretched all over the floor, they’d have made the necessary corrections and steered the women right. Not only does this improve the gains on each exercise, but it also minimizes the chance of injury from doing something wrong in the midst of an exercise. And nothing’s worse than a pop, snap, or tear that could have been prevented.
- Variety. I’m guilty of having a set number of exercises for any one muscle group – the combination of familiarity and developed form make me loathe to venture too far outside my comfort zone. A trainer brings a wealth of information and ideas to the table, and can tailor your workouts to meet your stated goals. This not only prevents plateauing, but it also keeps things fresh and fun. When a workout becomes, well, work, it also becomes that much harder to get motivated and excited for. This is a perfect segue to…
- Motivation. Having someone right there, invested in your performance and effort, definitely has an impact on how you perform from workout to workout. It’s one thing to work inside your head to keep things moving, but it’s another entirely when someone is verbalizing and pushing you for one more rep, one more set, one more good workout. I know that, as someone who was a varsity athlete, the coaching aspect of having a trainer has always appealed, despite the fact that I’ve never pulled the trigger and worked with one. This leads to one last point…
- Accountability. Yes, looking in the mirror or at the scale has an effect on how virulently we get after it at the gym, but knowing there’s someone who wants you to succeed, and will push you toward that goal, makes you accountable to someone other than the reflection you see every morning. A trainer who’s spot on will regularly assess your goals, let you know if you’re tailing off, and work to keep you on track.
At some point, likely post half marathon season, I’ll probably give personal training a try for the sake of getting some feedback and new exercises into my routine. For now, though, I have a newfound appreciation for trainers, even if they do still take up a little too much room.
QOTD: Have you ever used a personal trainer? What did you like/dislike?